If you’re in the market for a family car, but have your heart set on an SUV then a medium sedan like the Hyundai Sonata probably isn’t going to fall on your radar, but should it?
The rise in popularity of SUVs that provide an image of utility and capability has lead to a slow but steady decline in the sales of ‘run-of-the-mill’ sedans, so to keep that segment buoyant car makers are doing everything they can to maintain interest.
In the case of Hyundai the Sonata range packs in a big list of equipment, with the turbocharged Sonata Premium offering prestige levels of equipment for far less money, and as part of a running change Hyundai Australia has also specified quieter tyres, and a long list of extra safety gear, but with a commensurate price rise to match.
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $45,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 180kW/350Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 9.2 l/100km | Tested: 10.2 l/100km
In the 2017 Hyundai Sonata Premium you’ll find radar cruise control, lane change assist, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot detection added to the specification sheet where they were missing before.
That extra safety kit sees prices rise by $3500 for the top-spec Premium, and includes the addition of steering wheel paddle shifters and new grippier, but quieter Michelin Pilot 3 tyres.
But at $45,490 (plus on-roads costs) the Sonata Premium is hardly a bank-breaker, making an ideal choice for family buyers looking for a spacious car that’s also big on value, offering premium features at a price that’s sure to please.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, heated and cooled front seats, powered front seats with driver’s memory, dual-zone climate control, rear seat ventilation outlets, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, multi-function trip computer, heated power-folding exterior mirrors, proximity key with push-button start and auto boot release, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, DVD player, USB inputs, satellite navigation and six speakers
- Cargo Volume: 510 litres, expandable via 60:40 split fold rear seats
The Sonata has a big car feel inside, mostly because it sits on a footprint that’s almost as big as some large sedans, giving it a roomy cabin both front and rear.
Front seat passengers are also treated to heated and cooled front seats with electric adjustment and driver’s memory, as well as 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with satellite navigation and smartphone mirroring, push-button start, auto lights and wipers, and a massive panoramic sunroof.
Rear seat occupants fare well for room to, with plenty of legroom, a decent amount of width, and despite the sunroof ahead of it, no compromise to headroom.
All seats are comfy, well padded, and suitable for larger frames - and with the Sonata primarily targeted at North American buyers the emphasis on comfort and convenience is apparent compared to the more sporty feel of a Euro sedan.
The dashboard design is handsome enough, though a little conservative, taking its cues from the larger Hyundai Genesis, but without some of the more overt premium features. Still, the quality and materials should impress.
Interior storage is catered to by a decently sized lidded bin under the climate controls ideal for a phone and wallet, lidded cup holders, a roomy glovebox and centre console, and generously proportioned bottle holders and map pockets in each door.
At 510 litres the boot is well sized, and big enough for prams, portacots, or a week’s worth of groceries, but lacks the convenience of bag hooks or tie-down points. The 60:40 folding backrest can be released from inside the boot however, which is helpful.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 180kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: 320mm ventilated front discs, 284mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, 10.9m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1300kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Though it may be turbocharged, the Sonata makes no bold claims about that, with just a single 2.0T badge on the bootlid as a boast of the 180kW engine packed under the bonnet.
That engine though isn’t tuned for wicked performance, instead it’s set up more as a substitute for a larger V6 engine, using its moderate 350Nm of torque from as low as 1400rpm to help shift the Sonata’s bulk about.
That’s not to say that the Sonata Premium isn’t swift - it can get up and move when it needs to, but it really isn’t setup to do so, feeling more at home with a calmer driving style.
There’s a little refinement missing from the package, most noticeable at idle and the occasional abrupt gear change from first to second, but otherwise the Sonata behaves itself well.
Certainly the ride quality, thanks to its Australian-tuned suspension package, is ideal for smoothing out patchy road surfaces common to the suburban streets of Melbourne, and taking speed humps in its stride.
Hit the open road and the Sonata deals with potholes and surface changes well - soaking up abrupt hits while still maintaining tyre grip and handling rather adeptly for something so big and comfortable.
Hyundai’s switch to ‘premium’ Michelin tyres is also designed to work with the suspension tune, promising better grip with quieter running, and while there’s still a certain amount of tyre rumble on the open road, the Sonata is a mostly peaceful place to ride.
The reported 9.2 l/100km fuel consumption claim isn’t one of the most economical either, slurping more juice than either a Toyota Camry or Mazda6 - though neither of those competitors offers a turbocharged petrol engine and can’t match the Sonata’s power and torque.
Cars that come a little closer to the turbocharged Sonata in the performance stakes, like the Nissan Altima V6 and Subaru Liberty 3.6R also out-slurp it when it comes to fuel consumption, so the difference isn’t as stark.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars - the Hyundai Sonata range scored 33.84 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2015.
Safety Features: All Sonata variants feature six airbags, traction and stability control, ABS brakes, auto headlights, rear view camera, and rear park assist. The Sonata Premium also adds front park sensors, distance-keeping cruise control that operates down to a standstill, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited km.
Servicing: Hyundai offers capped-price servicing, however the Sonata turbo engine requires more frequent service intervals set at six-months or just 7500km, with intermediate services (7500 interval) priced at $159 each and full services (15,000km) at $259 each with the exception of the 60,000km and 75,000km which clock in at $399 each.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Though it might lack some of the more premium touches inside, the Toyota Camry Atara SL offers big car space, with the option of frugal hybrid running and value pricing making it a compelling package in its own right.
Ford takes a decidedly upmarket approach with the Mondeo, including segment-first rear inflatable seatbelts amongst its safety features for up-spec models. A hatchback shape (or available wagon) boosts versatility.
Though it’s the same under the skin, the Kia Optima GT looks decidedly different, both inside and out, with a more sporting influence compared to the calmer Sonata. Premium touched like Harman Kardon Audio and available red leather seats help it stand out from the crowd.
If you’d prefer something more ‘traditional’ Subaru is one of the few remaining manufacturers to offer its medium sedan with a six-cylinder engine, linked to one of the best CVT transmissions available and channelled to the ground via standard all wheel drive.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Hyundai Sonata is most certainly a capable family sedan - though the boot might lack the loading flexibility of a comparable SUV, it certainly doesn’t lack for size. Nor does the rear seat, with enough room in all dimensions to keep back seat squabbles to a minimum.
In top-spec Premium trim the Sonata also does a convincing imitation of a luxury car, with a full suite of luxury features and now the required safety systems to ensure safer, happier motoring.
While the design may be safe and somewhat conservative, the Sonata feels much more modern and fresh on the road, and apart from a few small refinement blemishes regarding low speed engine operation the package impresses in all other areas.
Also impressive is the value equation - Even taking into account the $3500 price rise between the 2016 and 2017 models, the added safety kit comprising lane change assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and distance-keeping cruise control helps keep the Sonata Premium at the sharp end of the value stakes.
MORE: Hyundai News and Reviews
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